LIMA — Jalina Rucker had the privilege of the floor at Monday night’s Lima City Council meeting and presented a tale of woe, one in which council members themselves had no answer.
“I come to you tonight with an issue I’ve been having with my landlord. Hartsock Realtors has just sold our property building which is seven units on the corner of Elm and Kenilworth to Blass Holdings, who are now asking for immediate evacuation by March 1,” Rucker told council.
On Jan. 29, Rucker and the other tenants of 401 Apartments were given 30 days notice to vacate the property by the property manager, Hartsock Realty, according to Mark Blass, owner of Blass Holding, LLC.
According to records with the Allen County Auditor’s Office, the property, at 236 S. Kenilworth was purchased on January 29 from Dutch Hollow Property 1, LLC to Blass Holding, LLC for $285,000. Blass said the deal actually went down on Jan. 28 but the transaction was recorded on Jan. 29.
Most of the tenants have moved out, but three of them remain.
Renovation work inside the vacant apartments has already begun.
“We’re doing a major renovation of that property, investing approximately $300,000 into the property to bring it up to current market standards. We have pre-leased three out of the seven units,” Blass said.
Rucker is unsure what they’ll do now.
“Three of us are on MET Housing assistance and the only thing WOCAP is offering us is shelter. There’s no one in town that is really accepting MET,” Rucker said.
Blass says they are working on finding alternatives for the tenants.
“As of this (Wednesday) morning, when my office contacted the Allen Metropolitan Housing Authority, they said they did have units available. I do know one point of contact was given to Ms. Rucker and I was informed this morning that she never contacted that person and their unit is available, but it’s not going to be ready for another week or so as they’re waiting on flooring to be installed, so we have provided a few different options for them,” Blass said.
Blass even indicated they would take MET Housing vouchers “I will accept MET Housing if the voucher qualifies for the dollar amount that we’re asking for the rental unit,” Blass said.
Those who pre-lease the units can expect to pay $1,000 a month in rent, something that is out of the question for Rucker who is disabled and can’t hold a job. She’s lived in the apartments for the past seven years — others have been there for 17 years.
“I have no place to go. Can you help me?” she asked council Monday night.
Council President John Nixon and others lent a sympathetic ear but couldn’t really help her. “Council is not the arbiter of these issues,” Nixon said.
On Wednesday, Carla Thompson, 3rd Ward Lima Councilor, held a news conference in council chambers to discuss the situation about not enough MET units available
“Developers in the city are working to build housing, and update housing for the incoming med students, for possible Rhodes State students, for other people that they feel might be coming into the housing market. But the problem that we’re facing because of that is that people like the three ladies we have here are being displaced,” Thompson said.
Thompson agrees that the new owners haven’t done anything legally wrong.
“What I want to do is let people know that the community needs honest folks that are willing to provide affordable safe housing for low to moderate-income people. In addition to that, what the community needs are more landlords willing to work with MET, so that people like my ladies here, don’t end up homeless in a week so that they actually have a place that’s safe that they can afford to move into when things like this happen. Because this is going to keep happening,” Thompson said.
Leaders from West Ohio Community Action Partnership and Allen Metropolitan Housing Authority were on hand to help the three fill out the proper paperwork to get them the help they need.
“The landlords are following the rules and following the laws, but that doesn’t help you much, right. We’re here to help you as much as we can,” said Jacqueline Fox, CEO of WOCAP.
“Any of you that already hold a Section 8 or Housing Choice Voucher, if you already have that voucher, you can, as long as you’ve had it for a year and you’re in good standing, you can still move with the voucher,” said Anna Schnippel, executive director for Allen Metropolitan Housing Authority. “You can move to any residence that accepts MET. That is not even restricted to just Lima or you can actually port your voucher and go anywhere in the United States.”
But finding a suitable place to move to that accepts MET Housing vouchers is not easy.
“That probably is an issue right now. Because even on a regular day we serve more than 1,000 people in this area and now because of COVID and everything we’ve got a lot of people out there looking for housing. If more landlords come forward and start participating in the program then we can actually house more people,” Schnippel said.
Even though there has been an “eviction moratorium” during the pandemic, it doesn’t apply here.
“Ohio law says that when a property owner purchases a property, he has a choice of starting a new lease with the tenant that’s already there or giving them 30 days notice, which is what’s happening here,” Fox said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.